Well, my time in Russia has thus far not disappointed. I've traveled to Yerevan (and back). I've patrolled Red Square. I've reaffirmed my hate-hate relationship with mayonnaise (the Russian national food). I've mangled lots of Russian words, and been corrected innumerable times. Which is actually encouraging, because they only correct you if they figure there's still hope.
President Vladimir Putin has been busy, too. He's fired (and replaced) a few of his top cabinet officials - apparently setting the players up for the upcoming presidential elections, this spring. And he announced that he'll be running for parliament in December in anticipation of being named Prime Minister. Which means that there will be at least a brief period of time when Russia could theoretically have the same man occupying the positions of both Prime Minister and President. Fortunately, he'll be a heartbeat away from the Presidency, since the Prime Minister in Russia becomes President should anything untoward (and by this I mean "resignation") happen to the President. Vlad also suggested that if his replacement (he continues to adamantly affirm that he will NOT stand for a constitutionally forbidden third consecutive term) does not perform up to expectations, he (Vlad) could potentially run again later on. But not to worry, Putin has promised that he won't interfere with anything. He said that the last thing Russia needs is a weak president. He's ensured that such an embarrassment would never happen in the Motherland. A friend of mine mentioned that this situation presents two future possibilities: 1) A future "catastrophe" will occur for which the future president will be entirely unprepared. The hack president will resign, insisting that Russia "needs her president," and Putin will reascend the throne. 2) The new guy will actually have a spine, and Putin's attempts to hold the reins of power will be met by a response from the sitting president to go pound sand. Either way, it should be interesting.
Another local curiosity that I've noticed here is men's ridiculous infatuation with mullets. They're everywhere. Any generic internet search will reveal that I'm not the only one who's taken notice. It's particularly funny because it seems to have replaced the opposite extreme in hairstyles that was so prevalent when I was a missionary about eight years ago. Back then, all the cool Russian dudes would buzz all their hair off while leaving about two inches of bangs hanging down the front. I don't remember how many times I had to call off an over-excited babushka barber who wanted to craft my coiffure into a "sportivka". If any of my Russian friends who might happen to read this blog could comment to explain this quirky fashion trend, I'd be most obliged.